One of my favorite bloggers, Becca, of Becca’s Byline, launched a new site a few weeks ago. Write on Wednesday is, according to Becca’s introduction, “a place to gather if you love playing with words and putting them to the page.” She encourages readers to respond to the topic she posts each Wednesday either by posting on their own site and linking back or simply posting a comment at Write on Wednesday. She opines that “sharing is the name of the game” (hence, the title of this article) and invites writers to “join us around the table. Bring your best notebook and a freshly sharpened pencil.” The topics she has discussed so far are thought-provoking and her own responses extremely insightful and interesting.
Sharing — knowledge, information, skills, and a sense of community — is indeed supposed to be the name of the game in the blogosphere. So I have been pondering why, of late, I have discovered so many blogs operated by individuals who don’t seem interested in sharing. In fact, the sites in question look very much like blogs, but are really just static websites.
The difference? In my mind, what separates a website from a blog is one important element: Interactivity. I began building websites in the mid-1990’s. I bought a book explaining HTML, got a free site on GeoCities and began tinkering with my crude creation. But the websites we built in those days were one-way communication devices because, although we posted email addresses to which visitors could send messages, there was no functionality allowing for comments to be posted on the site.
Once I discovered blogging software, there was no going back. I converted all of my static websites to blogs and have never regretted that decision.
So I am admittedly baffled by a trend that I have observed in recent months and find, frankly, disturbing. More and more blogs seem to be completely disabling visitors’ ability to post a comment or requiring visitors to register as a site user in order to comment.
I first noticed this a few months ago in conjunction with the weekly blog carnival I administer, the Carnival of Family Life. At first, I received one or two submissions each week from sites that either did not permit comments to be posted at all or required registration. But as the weeks progressed, more and more bloggers were submitting articles for the Carnival from sites operated in that fashion.
As the number of such posts continued to climb, I evaluated the situation and reached a decision: I stopped accepting articles from authors running such sites. At first, several bloggers argued with me, contending that their articles were worthy of inclusion in the Carnival because they provided valuable on-topic information. In most instances, they were right. I found myself torn about rejecting well-written, articulate articles.
But in the final analysis, I concluded that featuring articles published on sites that only permitted communication to flow in one direction was inherently unfair to the other Carnival participants and intellectually disingenuous. After all, I operate a blog carnival and, as noted above, my belief is that what separates blogs from old-fashioned websites is the give-and-take that occurs between the author and his/her readers.
Of course, not all of the articles in question have been top-notch. And many have come from sites that appear to exist solely to sell a particular product, as evidenced by the fact that the email addresses provided at the time the post is submitted for my consideration are not even valid and the emails are returned as undeliverable.
Some of the site owners argued that they began requiring registration to prevent spam. Sorry, but I don’t buy it because there are plenty of safeguards available, including Akismet and Bad Behavior, just to name two plugins. They also contended that requiring a user to register discouraged those visitors who were simply spoiling for a fight, thereby eliminating contentious comments and the “comment wars” that can follow. Again, it has been my experience that truly contentious comments are rare and, if received, easily deleted. While I do not practice comment moderation, for the most part, I have no qualms about deleting a comment posted solely for the purpose of provoking me or another reader which adds nothing valuable to and/or does not advance an otherwise productive conversation taking place on the site.
Comment moderation, i.e., the practice of preventing comments from being visible to readers until approved by the site owner, and registration are, in my opinion, huge deterrents that should be avoided by bloggers. I will not take the time to register and, candidly, find the practice offensive to the point that I will not frequent the blog that requires it. I will also skip leaving a comment on any site that announces comment moderation is enabled. In my opinion, both practices send a message to a blog’s visitors: Your feedback is neither solicited nor particularly welcome.
Becca accurately stated that “sharing is the name of the game” in blogging and, more broadly, writing. Prohibiting readers from commenting in response to your writing or demanding that they take the time and go to the trouble of registering before being allowed to do so is, in my estimation, antithetical to that guiding philosophy of blogging.
What do you think? When you encounter a blog where comment moderation is employed or you must first register in order to comment, do you feel disinclined to do so? If not, what justification(s) for one or both practices do you offer?
And as to the Carnival of Family Life or, for that matter, any blog carnival, do you agree or disagree with my decision not to accept posts published on sites that either do not accept comments at all or require registration in order for readers to comment?